A Salty September

By Anna Mitchael

It will never stop.

For the rest of my life, in all the Septembers I am lucky enough to have, I will walk around with the nagging feeling that I’ve been wronged. No matter how many times I set myself up for what I’ll find on the other side of the door, those first moments when I step outside and feel the stillness of the heat drop on me — making the air in front of my face look wavy, causing my hair to droop — I will feel just a bit bushwhacked.

In my heart, I want September to be cool and crisp breezes, sharper than the crayons lined up in the back-to-school box. I dream of it being the start of sweaters, an invitation to think of pumpkins and cider while looking for signs of leaves about to turn and perhaps even humming a little tune, inspired by the arrival of fall.

But in Texas the month plays out a little differently. Here, no one gets to sing until October. And then it’s all of us at once — a symphony of people belting out their own tunes of sweet relief while we wear (can it be true?) long sleeves and jeans.

But there’s a saying I strongly believe in, that you’re never given more than you can bear. And for any sweat-ridden Texan who disagrees, my answer to you is this: Texas beaches.

In your heart, maybe you think September is too late to go to the beach. And I wouldn’t blame you for that. It’s important to know which traditions you will give on and which you’ll hold true. I can’t sit down to Thanksgiving without some kind of turkey on the table. Even in the years I was a vegetarian I wanted to at least see the bird. But I will happily wear white sandals to the beach long past Labor Day.

There are also the folks who won’t go to a Texas beach whether it’s in the final stretch of summer weather or high noon in July. Their reasons usually involve the sand not being white enough and the water not being clear. Basically, it’s not Florida and nothing can make it so.

On those points they, too, are correct. If you want to check out your pedicure in the middle of a swim or gaze dreamily into the distance and see a blue-green horizon line without oil tankers looming in the background, the Gulf of Mexico may not be for you.

But if those things don’t faze you. If deep down you think your soul could find more peace eating brisket while wearing a bathing suit and a baseball cap than sitting in your living room willing your air conditioner not to give up on you now, then this might be the time to try on a new tradition.

The September heat may never stop, but neither will the water hitting the shore. And as long as the temperatures are high, there will be pickup trucks parallel parking along the dunes. This year you probably won’t talk to any of these people up close — but even from a social distance you might identify a common thread. The belief that salt air can turn what feels wrong into something very right — that even while you are waiting to sing, you can keep living.

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